- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Governments across the globe requested more user data from Google during the second half of 2015 than ever before, the internet giant said Monday.

Google received 40,677 requests for user data between July and December 2015, up from 35,365 in the first half of the year, the company said in its latest bi-annual transparency report.

The requests pertained to 81,311 different Google accounts, and resulted in information being disclosed to authorities 64 percent of the time.

The United States tops the list by having filed more requests for user data with Google than any other country, according to the report. Investigators in the U.S. filed 12,523 requests with Google during the second-half of 2016, or nearly one-third of the total number received. Those requests affected 27,157 different user accounts, and 70 percent resulted in data being deliverer to investigators.

Despite the latest report revealing an upward trend with regards to the number of surveillance requests filed globally, the figures suggests Google has increasingly become more accustomed to rejecting government orders. While fewer than two-thirds of the most recent requests resulted in data being given to governments, that statistic is significantly smaller than figures from five years earlier when Google said it responded to 76 percent of all requests.

“We’re pleased with some of the improvements we’ve seen in surveillance laws,” Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, said in a blog post Monday.

“The European Commission and the United States recently agreed on the Privacy Shield agreement, which includes new undertakings covering procedural protections for surveillance efforts,” he acknowledged.

A measure signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, the Judicial Redress Act “helps address concerns about the ability of non-U.S. persons to redress grievances concerning data collected and stored by the U.S. government under U.S. law,” he added.

“Indeed, the distinctions that U.S. privacy and surveillance laws make between U.S. and non-U.S. persons are increasingly obsolete in a world where communications primarily take place over a global medium: the internet.”

Germany and France ranked second and third, respectively, with regards to the number of surveillance requests filed with Google during the second-half of 2015. When combined, however, the 7,491 requests filed by German authorities and the 4,174 orders authorized by their French counterparts still fell short of the 12,523 requests made by the U.S. government.

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